Track replaces Mexico City; prepares for Aug. 1 debut
The newest venue on the Nationwide Series circuit just happens to be a few miles from the corporate headquarters of its subsidiary, Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company.
Obviously, the decision to place Iowa Speedway on the Nationwide Series calendar for 2009 may have had nothing to do with the thousands of Nationwide employees working in Des Moines, no more than 35 miles away. But both NASCAR president Mike Helton and Iowa Speedway president Jerry Jauron alluded to Nationwide's nearby presence in Tuesday's media teleconference announcement.
"We went by the track and there's no question that the facility is first-rate," Helton said. "It's in the heartland of America and our series sponsor, Nationwide, has a great presence in Des Moines. Iowa has always been a strong motorsports community, across the board. So it made sense to us."
"[We're] elated to be part of the Nationwide Series for 2009," Jauron added. "With the thousands of Nationwide employees right down the road in our capital, Des Moines, makes this announcement even more noteworthy."
Even if Nationwide officials might have used any political clout to sway the folks in Daytona Beach, the positives of adding Iowa Speedway to the schedule were enough to disuade any conspiracy theorists.
When it was announced that Mexico City would be dropped from the calendar, the .875-mile tri-oval in Newton appeared to be the prohibitive favorite to replace it. With NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace serving as consultant, and a successful debut with NASCAR's Camping World Grand National division, it seemed only a matter of time before Iowa got its opportunity.
With permanent seating for 25,000, state-of-the-art facilities and the ability to serve the untapped upper Midwest market, Iowa had to have been No. 1 on NASCAR's expansion list. The only question mark was the race date, and that was handled by shuffling the Montreal road-course race to the weekend before Labor Day -- an open date on the Sprint Cup schedule.
"It began with having an event that opened up and then looking around as to the opportunities and options we had to put that event on the schedule somewhere else," Helton said. "Iowa came to mind and we have some experience there with the Grand National divisions racing there.
"It's first-rate, well thought-out facility that handles race teams, fans and the entire NASCAR community, from our perspective. That's what really drew us to Iowa as the site for a Nationwide race for 2009."
So while the Cup cars are busy at Pocono Raceway the first weekend in August, the Nationwide Series will complete a four-week Midwestern stretch in Iowa, a month-long journey that includes Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis.
"We have a tremendous fan base here in the Midwest with what we believe is enormous growth potential," Jauron said. "Our Iowa fans are crazy about racing. We're very excited about our future."
The 2009 schedule features several other changes. After the season-opener at Daytona and races at Fontana and Las Vegas, the series takes a two-week vacation before picking up at Bristol. Then there's another off-week as Nashville swaps places with Texas.
That early-season down-time better come in handy, because beginning with the May 23 race in Charlotte, the Nationwide Series doesn't get another break until mid-September, a stretch of 17 consecutive race weekends.
The series will not run back-to-back road-course races in 2009. The decision to move Montreal to Aug. 30 now leaves two weeks between Watkins Glen and the annual trip across the border.